Comic Book Corner: ‘Life is Strange’ Returns and ‘Gogor’ Starts

Spider-Man Amber Blake Orphan Age Life is Strange Gogor
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One of my favorite things about Comic Book Corner is rounding up all these comics we love, week after week. Because even when I read comics I don’t particularly like, I love the format of comics. I may have strong feelings about floppies versus trades and which I’d prefer to read, but the fun of new comic book day, the excitement of picking up your pull list, and getting my hands on comics that I love – it really does feel good, and I’m so glad that I finally have a local comic book store that makes that possible.

Here’s a few of the comics that Eric and I loved over the past few weeks, including Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6, Gogor #1, Amber Blake #1, the return of Life Is Strange with Wave issue #1 (of 4), Unstoppable Wasp #8, Ironheart #6, and Orphan Age #1 and #2.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Issue #6

Spider-man flies towards the front of the screen with a little spider-man behind him
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Cover Issue #6

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard & Federico Blee
Cover Artist: Andrew C. Robinson
Publisher: Marvel

Eric: Tom Taylor might currently be the comic book scribe most adept at writing single standalone issues that truly illustrate what makes beloved comic characters great. As evidence of that assertion, I offer last winter’s Batman Annual #3, which presented a captivating nuance to Batman’s relationship with his trusty butler Alfred, and now Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6, which I consider one of the greatest single Spider-Man comics that I’ve ever read.

I don’t want to spoil this comic, because I believe that readers should be able to enjoy the wonder of this tale completely fresh when they first open this book. But I will summarize it simply by saying that, after Peter Parker received news of Aunt May’s cancer diagnosis last issue, he deals with it in the most lovely way by going on an adventure with Spider-Bite, a spunky young version of our hero. Spider-Man and Spider-Bite take on major rogues such as Doctor Octopus and a multiplied Sinister Six(ty) to retrieve a mysterious box that holds the “key” to the city, before their adventure ends and we learn the truly sweet nature of their team-up.

What Taylor and artist Cabal have done with FNSM #6 is nothing short of beautiful. Through the first five issues, the creative team on this book has emphasized the “neighborhood” aspect of this title through smaller-scale stories that focus on Spider-Man’s relationships with nearby residents. This issue focuses on the “friendly” aspect of the title, and captures the essence of what makes Spider-Man a great character: his genuine compassion for others. Taylor’s script is charming, funny, and touching, and Cabal’s illustrations perfectly accompany the story with whimsical action scenes and emotive character beats. It all adds up to a strong standalone tale that’s the best yet in this early run of FNSM, and perhaps the best Spider-Man comic in recent memory.

I’ll say no more, other than I loved this book. Buy this comic. Read it. Then read it again, and appreciate Taylor’s and Cabal’s perfect take on Spider-Man in this wonderful issue.

The first volume of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is now available for preorder with a release date in July 2019.

Gogor, Issue #1

A small figure in red stands on a hill
Gogor Issue #1

Writer: Ken Garing
Artist and Colors: Ken Garing
Cover Artist: Ken Garing
Publisher: Image

Eric: In my quest to find interesting new comics apart from the Big Two, I came across Gogor, the new Image series by Ken Garing. I hadn’t heard of Garing previously, but apparently he has a decent following from the Image-published sci-fi epics Planetoid and Planetoid:Praxis. Gogor feels decidedly more fantasy than sci-fi, and Garing has created a fun new world in this comic.

This first issue mostly serves to set the scene in this new world. It begins at a fast pace, with a chase: the young hero, Armano, is fleeing some soldiers from an army, which we learn from a flashback had attacked Armano’s school. Armano’s teacher gave him a mysterious scroll during the attack and instructed Armano to flee; he runs away atop his trusty steed, a swift shrew named Mesmer, while the soldiers pursue him on ants. Armano proves to be cunning and resourceful and manages to escape, and eventually meets an odd fellow called Wexil, who resembles maybe a beaked humanoid lizard, and Wexil helps Armano interpret the scroll he was entrusted with.

We don’t learn much about why the army attacked Armano’s school, or about Wexil’s origin or motives, or what all of this is leading to yet. But again, this first issue seems to focus on world-building, and in that sense it’s a success. This world is intriguing and fantastic. As Armano and the soldiers were mounted on what we consider very small animals (a shrew, ants, and later yellow jackets), I found myself wondering whether the characters in this world are small themselves, or if the animals that they employ are large. We also see during the issue that this world, called Altara, is composed of several lush floating islands arranged in a circle in the sky, and I hope this is highlighted in future issues. Armano’s scroll then alludes to the mystical Gogor, who apparently lies beneath the ground and must be awakened through an enchanted seed. We don’t see much of Gogor himself yet, but he resembles a cross between the Green Giant and the Incredible Hulk.

Garing’s writing is paced well, mixing the opening frenetic chase sequence with more muted moments as Armano escapes and meets other characters like Wexil who will surely help him on his journey. The accompanying art is slick and whimsical. I’m fascinated by this world that Garing has created, and I’m curious to see where Garing takes this in future issues. Gogor #1 is fun, and is worth a look.

Amber Blake, Issue #1

A woman in black walk forward with a red background
Cover of Amber Blake Issue #1

Writer: Jade Lagardère
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: IDW

TW: RAPE, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE

Kay: In stories where I’m kind of a goof, I initially thought the name of this comic was ‘Anita Blake,’ like the famous necromancer/vampire lover. I did figure out before reading the book, however, which was good on me.

Since I was initially confused, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Amber Blake. In the end, I got rather a lot – but I’m not sure what I got.

Amber Blake is the introduction to a spy story. In the first pages of the story, a small child (Amber) is dropped off at some kind of school by an adult who is then shown running away from the building. Amber is bullied, but her friend Amanda protects her in exchange for some help with her studies. The two girls are transferred to a school called “Cleverland.” An incident after graduation prompts them to attack the head of the school, who kills Amanda and tries to kill Amber. Amber runs away and is captured by some other shadow organization; then she is rescued and brought to a third shadow organization, which might be the building from the first pages? I’m not sure. At the end of the first issue, Amber is working with this organization – but her surname is still Anderson, so I’m not sure where Amber “Blake” is going to come in.

This story was frustrating to read. In fiction writing, writers are often advised to start in the middle of the action, and this story just…did not do that. The last 4 pages or so involved what felt like the story actually starting. The rest was build up that was confusing and labored. If the point of a first issue is to get me to read a second issue, I’m not sure this book did its job at all.

The art felt very unbalanced to me. We went from panels that felt dark, busy, and way too cluttered to lovely faces that I would hang on my wall. While I could generally track the action in the story, there were times I had to really study the art to understand what was happening. The overall coloring was very dark, which made the issue overall harder to read for me (I have visual difficulty with some types of black and white art).

Amber Blake looks like it has the potential to have some really badass storylines with a cool femme spy. I like that it’s being written by a woman. So many girl-spy stories are inherently misogynistic, and this book may be able to stay away from some of those tropes, if it can get out of its own way.

Life Is Strange: Waves, Issue #1 (of 4)

Max on a blue background with pink hair, camera at eye level
Cover of Life Is Strange: Wave (Issue #1 of 4)

Writer: Emma Vieceli
Artist: Claudia Leonardi
Colorist: Andrea Izzo
Publisher: Titan Comics

Kay: Before I even get started talking about this issue, I want to take a moment to appreciate what Titan is doing here. Last year, we got a Life Is Strange 4 issue mini series, called Dust. (You can read my review of the last issue, and dive in and purchase the trade). In general, I liked the series quite a lot, enjoyed the art, thought it was a cool continuation from the game, but had some concerns over the pacing.

But in light of the Marvel cancellations that are, once again, highlighting comics featuring girls and people of color, I have to highlight what Titan did with this series. See, they only ever promised me a mini series. Although I was worried about the pacing, I knew I was getting a four part story; I never expected more than that. Then the series did well, and they decided to do another four part miniseries. I completely love this model. I’ve had recent experiences where I see Marvel solicit issue #6 of a book I love and I think “Oh, thank god, we’re getting another arc.” If this is how comics are going to be in general – writing for the trade – then just call everything a mini series and let me plan to read a single story. Then I won’t be pissed off when the series I’ve fallen in love with is invariably canceled; I’ll just be disappointed its not getting another arc. The emotional impact is quite different.

But let’s talk about the second mini series for Life is Strange. Max has, in theory, reunited all the strings of time through which she was involuntarily jumping. She has left Arcadia Bay and is now in San Diego with both Rachel Amber and her best friend, Chloe. If you’ve played the game, you know that this is now a total departure from what we played through; Rachel Amber was dead when the events of Life is Strange began.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wave. We know that Max using her powers on purpose results in catastrophic destruction. We saw that, even when she saved Chloe, over time, the world was still unraveling around her. So what would Wave bring?

Our girls are making a life for themselves in San Diego. Rachel is trying to get work as an actress, Chloe is working as a mechanic and making art, and Max is working as a graphic designer. Much of the issue’s content is the emotional interactions between Rachel and Chloe as they’re trying to navigate a real relationship (instead of the idealized one they had, both at Blackwell and after Rachel had been immortalized in Chloe’s mind). There’s still the tension between Max and Chloe because of Max leaving for Seattle, something that we’d already dealt with in the course of the game, and which hadn’t been present in Dust. It’s fresh and not labored though, so I appreciated the beat it was given.

But we also see Max remembering all those other lives she’s lived and wondering how they’ve turned out. She wants to know that the other Chloes are okay. That the other timelines are happy. She wishes she could check, and knows that she can’t. And, in a gorgeous touch of art, she’s tattooed that blue butterfly which started everything on the inside of her wrist, the one she used to access her rewind power. She’s sworn never to rewind again, knowing the risks are too dangerous – but she still wishes she could. Gorgeously done, and with a light touch. Well done, Vieceli.

The driver of the plot is a dark haired boy that Max keeps seeing – and then not seeing. Max is terrified that she is beginning to flicker again, wondering why those around her can’t see the boy. In the last panels, however, we see that the boy has run away from her and is hiding around a corner. He has some kind of powers as well – and somehow seems to know that Max is someone to be avoided.

I’m delighted by this book. Leonardi’s art continues to be on point, finding space between the figures of the game and the needs of a comic book. The story is intriguing. It already feels like the pace is more settled, like our four issues will be more balanced and even then Dust was.

I absolutely can’t wait to see where this book goes.

The Unstoppable Wasp Issue #8

the faces of Nadia and all the agents of G.I.R.L.
Cover of The Unstoppable Wasp (2018) Issue #8

Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Gurihiru
Cover: Stacey Lee
Publisher: Marvel

Kay: Issue #5 of The Unstoppable Wasp broke a lot of hearts with its incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a manic episode cycling into a depressive episode in bipolar disorder. In Issue #6, we saw Nadia meeting with a therapist and learning more about how to handle her disorder. In Issue #8, Nadia’s managing her life and bipolar disorder now feels like a footnote. The first two pages left me saddened as a nuanced, careful portrayal of something so important slipped into simplistic and inaccurate. In Nadia’s “intro bubble” (and I adore that Marvel seems to be pushing for these to return) she is described as “recently survived her first bout with bipolar disorder.”

I’ve been struggling since Wednesday to put into words why that’s so hurtful to me. There’s something about the word “bout” that made me flinch away. Maybe it’s the idea that bipolar disorder goes away when you’re not cycling. I’m unsure.

Later, Nadia describes how “I have pills to regulate my mood. I have a routine. I have therapy twice a week. I have real support from this family I’ve made for myself. For the first time in a while, I feel like myself again.”

I flinched away from that so hard I nearly gave myself whiplash. Because it’s just not like that, not with any mental health disorder that isn’t purely situational. There’s a constant attention to well being, and sometimes an unhealthy hypervigilance. I didn’t sleep well last night; is that because I’m cycling or because I had caffeine late? Did I screw something up? Is there something I have to be more careful with?

People often talk about how the “high” of mania feels euphoric and amazing. For many of us, it’s the most terrifying experience you can imagine. Utterly out of control, no way to regain it, and desperate for it to all just…stop.

Anyway. The issue moves on from that into two alternating plot lines. Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) and Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) are breaking into a Red Room facility, hoping to find and release Nadia’s mother. Meanwhile, the G.I.R.L.s are running their first Young Scientists Expo. We get to see all the cool work the girls are doing, and we get to see Bobbi and Bucky trying to save Nadia’s mom. Nothing is going as expected.

We now know that Marvel is ending this series after 10 issues. I guess that’s better than the eight we got last time. But given that, knowing that Nadia is probably going to get shelved after this, and that bipolar disorder will be a footnote on her Marvel Wiki page, I wish Whitley hadn’t done this in the first place. Two excellent, incredible issues about suicide and bipolar cycling aren’t worth what will come next. Because I bet the next time Nadia has an episode, it will happen because she’s going “crazy” and fighting on the other side or something, or it will be a half-joke to explain her behavior.

I can’t help thinking about how Tony Stark’s alcoholism has been handled since “Demon in a Bottle,” the story by Michelinie and Layton that saw Tony’s drinking spin out of control, and showed how someone’s life can completely fall apart due to alcoholism. Honestly, I think issues #4 and #5 of The Unstoppable Wasp tried to tackle something this big – and if it’s going to be two issues and then done, I wish it hadn’t been done at all.

The rest of the book proceeds like every other comic book. Of course the Expo doesn’t go as planned, of course people are attacked, of course the Red Room facility isn’t what was expected. AIM is here to screw everything up. In two issues, we’ll know how it all turns out.

Somehow, I’m having a really hard time convincing myself to care. And, frankly, that hurts almost as much as the poor treatment of bipolar disorder.

Ironheart Issue #6

Ironheart and Spider-Man chase each other through the New York skyline
Cover of Ironheart Issue #8

Writer: Eve Ewing
Artist: Kevin Libranda
Colorist: Matt Milla
Cover: Stefano Caselli & Matt Billa
Publisher: Marvel

Kay: The beginning of this next arc of Ironheart grows out of something that happened in Champions (which, thankfully, is noted in the recap, or I’d have no idea what was going on). Miles Morales is missing, and Riri is trying to find him.

We have a new artist on the book, and I’m already loving the team-up of Kevin Libranda and Matt Milla. There’s more depth to the art, more shading and shadow. Gorgeous work.

Riri locates Miles in a cabin in the forests of northern New York and basically gets Groundhog Day treatment, although Miles doesn’t remember the name of that old movie his dad used to watch until the end of the issue. They figure out who’s trapping them there, fight him and restrain him, and then head back to New York and Chicago respectively. Along the way, we see that Riri is making a real effort to be friendly to people, and that even though she and Miles don’t always get along, they’re team mates…and she thinks of them as friends.

There’s not a ton to say about this issue; it’s cute and fun and makes for a good transition out of the pretty heavy material of Issue #5. I’m curious to see what happens next; does this kick off a new arc (I hope) or is it simply resolution of whatever was happening in Champions (I hope not).

Fun issue, I recommend reading it. A good starting point in the series if you’ve been lagging and want to see how cute Riri is, as long as you read the intro.

Orphan Age Issues #1 and #2

A black man stands against a yellow background with names written and crossed out behind him
Cover of Orphan Age Issue #2

Writer & Co-creator: Ted Anderson
Artist & Co-creator: Nuno Plati
Cover Artist: Nuno Plati
Publisher: Aftershock

Kay: Since Marvel has been canceling comics I love left and right, I’ve been pushing myself to branch out more in my reading tastes. That’s what brought me to Orphan Age. The comic seems to have grown out of the Kickstarter game where you explored a world that was full of no one but children; in a day, all the adults had died. In the comic, those children have grown up and are working on building a life of their own.

This comic is doing a lovely job of slowly exploring the world left behind. Daniel has taken charge of Princess after Princess’s family and town were destroyed in an attack by The Church. Willa, a traveling bard of sorts who is clear that she isn’t part of the group, but is heading in their direction, is with them. They’re heading towards Albany, seeking out safety.

I’d describe this book as a post-apocalyptic western, but I love it because there are people of color built into the story; you virtually never see that. The art is a little blocky to my eyes, but it’s simple in a way I am really enjoying. The first issue focuses on the destruction of Princess’s village; the second shows what happens when the group tries to get supplies at The Mall. (Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.)

This book has grabbed my attention, and hard. I’m definitely going to keep reading.

***

And there you have it: out of the comics we love, some of the ones we enjoyed and some of the ones we didn’t. The good news is that lots of fun was always had in the reading.

Some issues were provided to GeekMom for review purposes. 

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